Generation of periodic patterns is fundamental to the differentiation of multiple tissues during development. How such patterns form robustly is still unclear. The Drosophila eye comprises similar to 750 units, whose crystalline order is set during differentiation of the eye imaginal disc: an activation wave sweeping across the disc is coupled to lateral inhibition, sequentially selecting pro-neural cells. Using mathematical modelling, here we show that this template-based lateral inhibition is highly sensitive to spatial variations in biochemical parameters and cell sizes. We reveal the basis of this sensitivity, and suggest that it can be overcome by assuming a short-range diffusible activator. Clonal experiments identify Scabrous, a previously implicated inhibitor, as the predicted activator. Our results reveal the mechanism by which periodic patterning in the fly eye is stabilized against spatial variations, highlighting how the need to maintain robustness shapes the design of patterning circuits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)